Pensioner ‘perks’ such as free bus passes, TV licences and inflation-busting pensions should be scrapped and more money spent on young people instead, a new parliamentary report has urged.
The House of Lords Committee on Intergenerational Fairness called for stronger worker rights for those in the ‘gig’ economy and new policies to create more affordable homes for sale and for rent.
Age impacts of all government policies, including a regular assessment in the Budget, should also be introduced in a bid to end the growing gaps in income between the young and old, the peers said.
The committee - whose members have an average age of 66 - warned that “mutual support and affection” between the generations had been “undermined” by years of unfairness on basic tax and benefits and housing and other public services.
Among the key recommendations in its report are:
- ending the ‘triple lock’ on pensions, phasing out free TV licences based on age and restricting winter fuel payments and free bus passes to only five years after retirement age.
- wealthier pensioners who keep on working past 65 should pay national insurance, ending the tax-free perk they currently receive.
- a massive increase in affordable housing, as well as a radical new system of rent regulation
- a default assumption of employment status of ‘worker’ to protect young people from exploitation in the ‘gig’ economy
- a substantial increase in vocational and further education spending, plus Intergenerational Impact Assessments for all draft legislation
Committee chairman Lord True said that young and older people have strong bonds because they recognise the contribution the other makes and the challenges they face.
“However, there is a risk that those connections could be undermined if the government does not get a grip on key issues such as access to housing, secure employment and fairness in tax and benefits.
“We are calling for some of the outdated benefits based purely on age to be removed. Policies such as the state pension triple lock and free TV licences for over-75s were justified when pensioner households were at the bottom of the income scale but that is no longer the case.
“Young people told us they feel short changed by the housing market, so we are recommending policies to deliver a significant increase in the supply of social and private housing and recommend protections to give renters long term security be backed a new regulatory framework.”
Frank Field, who chairs the Commons work and pensions committee, said: “The committee has hit the bull’s eye. The injustices in both the housing and labour markets have served to torpedo younger people’s living standards in recent years.
“Will the government now seize this report and use it to forge a new contract with younger people?”
The Association of Colleges said: “The cuts to the education system have had big implications over the last decade. Many young people are leaving education without the qualifications needed to get on in life. Some of the ones who are gaining degree qualifications are often finding themselves in low-skilled jobs.”
But Anna Dixon, of the Centre for Better Ageing, said: “Headline grabbing proposals like abolishing free TV licenses based on age risk distracting from the big structural changes needed across housing, work and communities.”